The devastating Grenfell Tower fire was documented by residents across London, as onlookers recorded intense flames which spread across the 24-story building and claimed the lives of 71 people. Professionals working in the field of forensic architecture are seeking to obtain those videos as part of an investigation, believing that each one represents a unique piece of evidence.
The project, which is being developed by the Forensic Architecture research agency at London's Goldsmiths University, will include the stitching together of mapped and geo-located videos. The footage will become part of a 12-hour 3D video of the fire, which will then be mapped onto an architectural model of Grenfell Tower.
"The model will allow the user to investigate the fire, and will sit within a web platform which will ultimately act as a freely available public resource," Forensic Architecture wrote on its website. It added that the ultimate goal is for members of the public to "explore and better understand the events of the night of the fire" which took place on June 14, 2017.
Clear footage or photos which were taken early on can be instrumental in providing answers to key questions, according to Nick Masterton, a technologist on the project. “The thing about the fire is that lots of the most crucial stuff happens early on, and a lot of that is hand-held and is more shaky footage, and the news crews arrive around 3 or 4am and that’s when you get the really stable shots,” he told Wired, adding that quality initial footage can “supersede or...provide more information than several lower quality shots.” The investigation is the latest to be launched by Forensic Architecture, which practices an emergent academic field that bears the same name. The aim of the discipline is to use time and space to present a new side of an investigation, to help answer questions and reveal the truth. Previous projects conducted by the agency include the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, and the case of an NGO boat which was accused of aiding people smugglers in the Mediterranean. Designer, filmmaker, and visual storyteller Nathan Su, who works with Forensic Architecture, spoke to Strelka Magazine about the field earlier this month.
The circumstances surrounding the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 71 people and injured 70 others, are subject to both a public inquiry and a criminal investigation. More than 530 accredited individuals and organizations are taking part in the inquiry – the largest number in UK history.
Forensic Architecture’s investigation into the fire is open-ended, with the agency expecting it to continue for a year or more. If you have footage to share of the Grenfell Tower fire, head to the Grenfell Media Archive to share it. Material can also be submitted through a workstation set up at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London until May 6.
Text: Lynsey Free